I don’t know what I expected. Actually, that’s a lie. I do know what I expected. I expected things would be the same as I had seen.
Every kid can plan out his or her own life based on the people around them. When I’m in high school, I’ll be like these older kids I know. When I get married, I’ll be like my parents. One day, when all is said and done, I’ll become my grandparents. Maybe I’ll fish.
You brace yourself for it. It’s why cycles get repeated and mistakes get recycled. Looking back on my time as kid, I can vividly remember actions and reactions that were never really my own. They were the personalities of others playing out through me because I thought that’s what adults do. We’re little mirrors who repeat a lot.
That expectation mentality stayed with me as I grew up and soon the future was laid out a bit more specifically. I had friends who would be around forever and aspirations that were waiting to come true as soon as I grew old enough to do them. The only thing stopping me from becoming a WWF action figure was time.
Life, however, doesn’t allow such an easy ride. One by one, things started to change and, before long, I learned that you don’t get to map out your life based on probably. You go places you never thought you would. You become things you never dreamed.
People died. Others left. Still others were sent away. Friends, family, enemies, and mentors were here one day and gone the next. Plans changed and, before I knew it, circumstances changed with them. Companions I had etched in stone to be on my journey forever were soon cut out early; their roles were left to play out in my head.
Role models, in the loosest sense of the word, began to falter. Once you see one crack, you start to see them all. It took little more than that first step into the real world before I realized how so many of the actions and reactions that had been playing out were all wrong. I alienated people and put forth a foot that wasn’t mine. Taking after others wouldn’t get me to where I would go. I didn’t have to see the world like they did. I didn’t have to raise my children like they did. I had to be myself.
When my kids came along, the fears I had that they wouldn’t be perfect, in the typical sense of the word, were unfounded. Not because they were perfect in the typical sense of the word, but because it wouldn’t matter even if they weren’t. They were perfect for me and that was what mattered. I never had a white picket fence and, on the inside, my house sometimes felt it was crumbling . I lived in a community where landscapers mowed my lawn. I never took up fishing. And it was all fine.
I didn’t stay married either and that one may have been the biggest shock of all. Growing up, that was the most important thing and I watched others, miserable in their own lives, stick things out while falling apart. They wore it like a badge of honor and, even if you didn’t agree, a kid would have to see it as something that came with growing up. That’s what I expected.
Being here now, in my own place, is the last thing I ever expected at this point in my life. Then again, as a kid you tend to forget that things like this are decided by more than one person. Sometimes the best things for everyone appear to be the worst things when you have no point of personal reference by which to go by. All you can do is take the pitches as they come. If you’ve truly been playing the game with your heart, you know when to swing.
I will often wish I could go back in time and see myself. The ironic part is that it doesn’t matter when. It could literally be at any point in my time on Earth before today. I just wish I could go back, hug myself, and say, “It all will be OK.”
Because it is.
There have been a laundry list of hurdles and a few post-its of unbelievable achievements. Regardless of whether I was on a chute or a ladder, one thing was clear from the start. This journey was never anything I could have predicted. The person I am today is no one I ever thought would be writing these words.
Yet, here I am and I’m proud, most days. All that hardship and triumph made me who I am. All that is still before me, waiting for me to slam into them like roadblocks and run victory laps, will do the same. I know that now. Life changes and we change with it.
This life is what made me who I am. Had it been what I expected, I couldn’t be the person I am today. My grandparents were my grandparents. I didn’t need to become them too. I just needed to become me. I can’t wait to see who I am tomorrow.